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Police renew tear gas attacks on protesters at Turkish paper 'Zaman'

Turkish police have fired tear gas on protesters outside the offices of opposition paper "Zaman" a day after authorities took control of the publication. The takeover prompted an outcry from rights groups.

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Black day for democracy in Turkey

Turkish riot police on Saturday used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Istanbul headquarters of one of Turkey's largest circulation newspapers.

Protesters had been arriving at the site throughout the morning to show solidarity for "Zaman" employees after an Istanbul court on Friday ordered a state-appointed trusteeship take over the paper and its sister outlets. Security forces seized "Zaman" in a raid at midnight. In that instance they also used tear gas and a water cannon on a crowd gathered at the building.

Journalists returned to work on Saturday amid a heavy police presence. Many took to social media to post photos of armed special forces setting up barricades and firing tear gas on the crowd.

A reporter at the paper told German press agency DPA that dozens of armed police had entered the building and that the government-appointed trusteeship had removed the editor-in-chief.

"Zaman" has Turkish and English editions and is known for its staunch opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is also seen as affiliated with US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government says is running a terrorist organization seeking to overthrow Turkish authorities.

The English-language "Today's Zaman" Saturday edition, published before the raid, printed its entire front page in black with the headline: "Shameful day for free press in Turkey."

International outcry

The government's forced takeover of the newspaper has sparked outrage among rights groups and added to concerns over press freedom in Turkey under Erdogan. European Union Parliament President Martin Schulz said he would raise his concerns with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is due to visit Brussels on Monday to discuss the migration crisis.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he was "extremely worried" about the swoop on the paper, "which jeopardizes progress" made by Turkey in other areas. He warned on Twitter that Turkey, which is a long-standing candidate to join the EU, needs to "respect the freedom of the media."

The United States said the court order was "the latest in a series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government targeting media outlets and others critical of it."

State Department spokesman John Kirby urged Turkish authorities "to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in their own constitution."

nm/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, EDP)

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